Agile and AWS: A Presentation at AWS Las Vegas

Jon Hathaway and Alex Singh, presenters of Agile and AWSWednesday night, I went to a presentation on Agile and AWS held by AWS Las Vegas at Innevation Center. The speakers were Jon Hathaway of HATech, and Alex Singh of OrgAgility. The presentation was primarily a case study of transitioning slot machine manufacturing giant IGT into having a lean, Agile DevOps team and company culture to support it. By coaching the DevOps team in using Agile and AWS, they report that IGT reduced the time to upgrade slot machines on the floor from 18 months to 2 weeks.

That’s a phenomenal reduction in time, and I was very impressed with their results.

My One Takeaway

I took three pages of notes during the presentation. A lot of it was repeat information from my experiences with Agile, but I always like to have one takeaway to share, and here’s the one I chose from last night:

In this particular DevOps team, each day was like a mini-iteration. They start the day with a standup, like most teams, but that standup plans the goals and tasks for that day only. This keeps the team extremely flexible and able to solve problems. Multi-day tasks can be tackled, but if they have a higher priority item come in, they can switch focus on that item for one day, then refocus on the next. This reduces the overhead from context-switching. Employees are already context-switching by going home at night, so changing focus in the morning doesn’t reduce more productivity.

There were a lot of other topics and tons of information on using Agile and AWS, so much so that I felt almost like we were cramming a 2-day session on Agile into 90 minutes! But it was a very solid talk and both Alex and Jon were highly receptive to questions from the attendees.

Can You Get Unicorns? Agile Estimating and Planning at the Las Vegas Agile User Group

Agile Estimating and Planning was the topic of the first Agile and Scrum User Group meeting here in Las Vegas on Monday night, and it was a good one!

A little club business

In the last 3 months, Jim Schiel reached out to users of numerous local IT-related groups to invite them to join this new meetup group. As a result, we are now over 50 members and growing! Our first meeting was April 24th, and had about 8 attendees– not bad for a first time! We started by talking about the group and organization, then did introductions. The group was a wide range, from project managers and scrum masters like me, to developers and IT administrators. Slightly more than half were currently unemployed.

A great presentation

Can you get unicorns?Jim then gave a 90-minute presentation on Agile estimating and planning. He led an exercise in which we created and sized a backlog for a wedding. The exercise was a bit fun and a bit frustrating. I took on the role of an enthusiastic bride (the customer): “Of course the carriage should be pulled by horses. Unless you can get unicorns! Can you get unicorns?”

Jim’s a trainer and coach for numerous Agile methodologies, including Scrum. He explained the difference between estimating by “effort,” such as work hours or ideal person days, versus “size,” like story points or t-shirt sizing used in Scrum.

Some useful numbers I wrote down so I wouldn’t forget them:

When estimating the deliverable date, use the following formula:

backlog size/velocity * a variable = the number of iterations to complete the backlog.

This is a common approach, though it doesn’t really account for changes in the backlog after development has begun. The variable mentioned above is just for the team’s ability to work together:

  • If your team has worked together and is already a good, Agile team, with a fairly consistent and known velocity, the variable number is about 1.2 (adding 20%).
  • If your team is experienced-but-learning, multiply by 1.4 (adds 40%).
  • If your team is new, or they haven’t done Agile before, or there’s lots of technical debt, multiply by 1.7 or 1.8 (add 70-80%).

This really highlighted the importance of a strong team. Jim tried to hammer home that an organization’s process maturity isn’t its agility– the people/culture are its agility.

What’s next?

What’s next for the Agile and Scrum User Group? The next currently scheduled meeting isn’t till July, but I’m planning a Lean Coffee sometime in May or early June so we don’t lose momentum.